My Parisian Adventure – Day 1 (Planning, The Apartment and the Journey)

In the summer of 2014, my Mum and I decided to go to Paris for a holiday. Now, I’ve been to Paris once before, but that was when I was fairly young and we did Disney and seeing family. But for this holiday, it was the first one I planned. I wrote about the first three days on my old blog, and found it to be a good way to travel down memory lane. So, I thought I’d include a line of blogposts about my experiences in travelling to Paris and what I got up too.

The planning took about six months.
Research went into restaurants, tourist attractions, apartment rentals, hotels, flights, Eurostar deals, Metro lines, RER timetables and supermarkets. I’m a very particular person and when it comes to visiting a foreign country, I go by the belief ‘it’s better to be safe than sorry’. However, do not be alarmed! If you do find yourself in the French capital without any sense of direction or clue, it is so well signposted in both English and French it is quite difficult to get lost. The Metro (in my experiences) also runs quite regularly and with accuracy, and if you follow the major tourist attractions, you will navigate Paris with ease.

But for my particular holiday, I did plan every conceivable outcome.

So, where did we stay? My mother and I both agreed that we would rather stay in a apartment rather than a hotel. It would give us more privacy, and we wouldn’t have to rush in the morning or evening for set meals. We would be able to come and go as we pleased, and we could just relax.

So, I went on trusty old Google, and took on the difficult task of finding a centrally-located Parisian flat for reasonable prices.
Now, staying in Paris is just like staying in any major city. There are neighbourhoods to avoid, and places without good transport links into the centre. Also, if you are travelling into Paris via the Eurostar, it’s handy to have your base somewhere that is within reach of Gare Du Nord.

And after much umm-ing and ahh-ing, I finally decided on the sweet little rental of Studio Villette.872528_gallery

Studio Villette is a nifty little studio located in the 10th arrondissement, and near Canal Saint-Martin. It is within 5 minutes of the closest metro line (either Colonel Fabien, or the one we preferred, which was Jaurés) and the flat itself is in a very secure and quiet courtyard, with heavy doors, keypads and two sets of keys keeping you away from the street. As tourists, we found that using Jaurés was the best Metro station for us, as finding it was just a simple right-turn down the boulevard from your front door, and it is also near various supermarkets and delicious little restaurants. The Metro also ran every five minutes or so, and from Jaurés (with Line 5) you could reach the Bastille and Gare d’Austerlitz (from which you can go out of the city, and to places such as Versailles with). The neighbourhood was typical of anywhere you could find in any major city, and since we spent the majority of our time outside of our little location, it quickly became a comfortable place to go and have dinner.

We booked through the Roomorama.co.uk site, and found the prices extremely competitive, and for a week and splitting the costs, Paris suddenly became very affordable.
The studio was exactly what we wanted. With two beds (one being a queen-size and one being a single sofa-bed) it suited our needs down the ground, and with a little kitchen and bathroom, it was a place to go back and relax after a day of exploring the city. It also came with free high-speed Wifi, which the code was supplied after booking.

The owner, Maud was extremely welcoming and she gave brilliant directions on how to retrieve the keys, and left city guides for us. Also, for extra cost, she also supplied bedding and towels.
This apartm872519_galleryent easily took myself and my mother, and I’m sure it could could cater for three people sharing too. So I thoroughly recommend it, and will include links below to where we booked and the main website that it is listed under.

Now, I live in the South-West of England. So getting anywhere can be a right pain. Getting the train to London takes about six hours, and flying is ridiculously over-priced. Now, Paris was going to be a pricey holiday anyway, and the Eurostar for us cost about £70 each and we needed to get up to London for the early afternoon and through the cheapest method.
So my mother and I booked a National Express coach. We would leave at 4 in the morning, and get to London Victoria Coach Station at around 12.30.
Which we did. And the journey was long, yes. So tiring and so long as it disturbed our night sleep, but all in all it wasn’t too bad. There were comfortable seats, an on-board toilet, plug sockets and you were allowed to bring cold food and hot beverages with lids.
And it cost both of us £25 each.
Bearing mind this is from the farthest point away and was a return journey.
£25 was nothing.
So we arrived at Victoria, and caught the tube to St. Pancras, and began the checking in, which required tickets, passport etc. It’s a good idea to get yourself to the station about 45 minutes beforehand, just due to the fact that booking in and boarding the train can be time-consuming. Within St. Pancras they have a lot of amenities for holidays, but after checking in, the booths they have are over-priced and a lot like the ones you get in airports, so either be prepared to fork out for expensive sandwiches to eat on the train, or eat and buy beforehand.

eurostar-2ndclass-refurb2The Eurostar itself is a fairly nondescript service. It takes around 2 and a half hours, and you spend the majority of that above ground and looking at the countryside. Like other trains, they have bars on the train, in which towards the end of the journey you can buy Metro/Oyster cards, depende
nt on which way you’re travelling. However, these seemed like a lot of money for us, so we decided to wait until we got to Gare Du Nord, buy a single Metro ticket to get to our apartment and deal with the rest of the weeks journey the day after.
This suited us, but if you wish to be prepared, you could just go through the Eurostar and buy beforehand.

We arrived at Gare Du Nord around 4.30 in the evening, and began to start the last leg of our journey to our apartment. As I said, we bought the single Metro tickets (T+ ticket) which were around 1.70 Euros per travel, so not too bad.
Also, word of warning – if you wish to buy Metro tickets from the little machines, you need the exact money via coins to pay or a card. A lot of these machines don’t have paper money slots.
Our Metro journey was short but tiring, and finding the apartment was the typical first-day-getting-lost-which-direction-am-I-going strife. But after we dumped our bagscroque, we had a stroll down the boulevard and found a little restaurant on the corner where we had a delicious dinner of Croque-Monsieur, salad and chips. The restaurant was called Le Conservatoire, and I’ll list the address below. They serve a variety of meals, large portions for fairly good prices. Mother and I ate there three out of five nights, and despite the waiter not speaking much French, we got a friendly welcome.
All in all, we were travelling for twelve hours that day in different ways, so naturally we were exhausted.

So, that is my first day all sorted. Links for any necessary sites are below, and I’ll continue my Parisian posts in the next few weeks.

Studio Villette on Roomorama 

ParisHomes.Fr – Website featuring Parisian flats to rent. 

Le Conservatoire hklj

 

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Top 5 Books – The Romanovs

I’ve decided to start having a series of blogposts about my Top 5 picks. Whether this be a fashion, beauty, film, television series or books, I’ll pick out my Top 5 choices, offer a small review, and the chance to buy these picks as gifts or for yourself.

But for my first one, I thought I’d do something on a topic that I know extensively. An ongoing obsession/fascination of mine is Imperial Russia, and mainly focusing on the rule of the last Tsar and his family. I’ll be updating a complete 2016 blogpost on all the reference books I have on them soon, but here is just a little snippet of what books I personally consider my favourites.

1: Nicholas and Alexandra by Robert K. Massie

This is my favourite book of the entire collection. I’ve had it for many years, and the r517zvo1s7ml-_sy344_bo1204203200_eason I love it so is because not only does it focus on the last Tsar, but it is also a really good introductory piece for people who want to start reading around his family and the lead-up to the Revolution. Some of the reference books you can buy can be very in depth and overwhelming, and for seasoned Russian historians like myself, that isn’t a problem. But for people who are interested in the whole Anastasia mystery, and want to learn a little bit more of the historical side, Massie’s text is good for them. The way Massie writes is in a very readable and clear style, and it is obvious how well researched this book was. The amount of detail he goes into is very good, and he writes contextually too. So you get the fullest picture of Russia at the time. What also makes this book interesting is the emotional way he deals with the tsarevich’s illness, which Massie himself had to deal with fir
st-hand when his own son was diagnosed with haemophilia. This very personal touch made the book even more readable and heartfelt. This text is definitely a recommended read, as it opens up the Romanovs to an audience who may just be discovering them.

To buy the book – Waterstones/Amazon

2: A Lifelong Passion: Nicholas and Alexandra – Their Own Story’ by Andrei Maylunas and Sergei Mironenko

This is an unique book in the fact that it tells the story of Nicholas and Alexandra but through their own letters, diary entries and letter they exchanged with family members. This truly brings to light the love the pair sh51c8gzazbjl-_sy344_bo1204203200_owed for each other, and how they perceived the world around them and the changes that were happening in the time they lived in.
In my mind, there’s was the greatest love story ever. And just by reading the letters they wrote to each other during long months of separation, you’ll see what I mean. I find it fascinating that if you compare how they felt when they first started courting, to years after when they were writing during WWI and had been married for years with five children, the love never seems to change. It just gets stronger, with the same amount of passion and yearning for each other. It’s truly moving.
Also, what I find interesting is how they address the political climate in which they lived. The Russian Revolution has been written and studied about for decades, but to hear how the real people of the time were dealing with it adds to a very interesting and enlightening read.
This is a perfect book to take with you on travels, as you can pick and choose sections that you want to read, and immerse yourself in the romance.

To buy the book – Amazon

3: Ekaterinburg – The Last Days of the Romanovs by Helen Rappaport and The Murder of the Romanovs by Andrew Cook.

I honestly couldn’t choose between these two books. The deaths of the Romanovs have been sensationalised and covered by the media so much that it’s good to find two books who just seem to deal with the facts. These two books cover the deaths, naturally, but also what happened after in some detail, especially with the controversial topic on whether somebody survived.51spxj7gbil-_sx325_bo1204203200_main_9781445600703_13

What I love about the Rappaport book is that it also dedicates chapters to Nicholas, Alexandra, the girls and Alexei – which I love reading as it just gives overviews on them. The chapter about the girls is probably my favourite as it dedicates large passages just to the girls mannerisms and personalities, which I find fascinating as since Anastasia has become the “famous” one out of the sisters, the rest of them seem to have been forgotten in a sense. So learning that these girls also had dreams and hope like the rest of the family is a strong reminder that they too suffered. The Rappaport book also gives some details about the situation after the death, with mentions of Anna Anderson and concluding it beautifully with the chapter ‘The Scent of Lillies’.
The Cook book draws from more source-related material and deals with the death but also the discovery of the bodies and the identification of the bodies. Definitely a more scholarly book than the Rappaport, but it is no less as well done as it does go into the unseen police footage and documents concerning what happened on that day. Despite being harder to read and definitely not for the light-of-heart, I would recommend this book as it does draw on a different approach in writing about the Romanovs.
Both these books together give any reader enough information concerning what happened in detail.

To buy Ekaterinburg – Amazon/Waterstones

To buy Murder of the Romanovs – Amazon/Waterstones

4: The Russian Court at Sea: The Last Day of a Great Dynasty by Frances Welch

This is a relatively new and interesting book, mainly because it doesn’t focus on the last 51aglyjunplTsar in a sense but what happened to his extended family after Nicholas and Alexandra’s deaths.
It tells the story of when 17 of the Russian royal family went into exile on the HMS Marlborough in April 1919, carrying some of the most prominent members of the family – including Nicholas II mother, his sister and the Crown Prince Felix Yussapov, once coming from the richest family in Russia and cited as Rasputin’s murder.
It details the family’s flee from Russia, with remnants of their old grand life – priceless pieces of art and jewelry – wrapped up and stored in blankets and the frankly bizarre experience it was for all of them and those aboard the Marlborough.
This is a interesting book, because it does follow where the Romanov lines stretch out all over Europe and America and shows the rapid decline from riches-to-rags that some of them faced, and it doesn’t focus on Nicholas at all. It focuses on how their deaths affect the family and how they, in effect, continued the Romanov line away from Russia and their people.
This is a breath-of-fresh-air novel for giving a different view on what happened to the Romanovs, and I highly recommend it.

To buy this book – Waterstones/Amazon

5: The Romanovs: Love, Power and Tragedy by A.N. Bokhanov

The jewel of my collection. This book is a real gem, and an incredibly hard-to-get book for a good deal, but believe me, it’s so worth the money you spend.
Full to the brink of unseen photos of the family, and fascinating insight to the family. The written information isn’t necessarily new in that sense that you could read it anywhere else, but5164p0vbvwl-_sy344_bo1204203200_ it is the photographs you pay for. It also features diary extracts, scans of unseen letters and everything you need for a visual treat. It’s emotional in some places, just because you do see how the family functioned, not as a royal family but like a normal one and it does beat all over rivals for a photographic book about the Romanovs.
So beautifully illustrated, this is not to be missed! It is also a surprisingly large and heavy book, but well worth the money. I can’t explain to you how much any Romanov fans should get this book.I don’t think I can explain how much I love this book and cherish it in my collection.

To buy this book – Amazon.

So, here are my Top 5 Romanov books. I’ve been collecting books on The Romanovs for years, and there are both positives and negatives for all the books I own. But, I really do recommend these books, as they give you a good insight and starter information for the Russian royal family. So, if you have any questions, please let me know!

 

 

Romantic and Rustic Wedding Moodboard.

As I’ve stated before in my Winter Wedding Ideas, I absolutely adore wedding planning. Of course, my own wedding is far in the future, but I think there is no harm in starting mood boards and looking through magazines early, so you can get an overall feel into what vibe you want your wedding to look like.

Now, as winter has finally turned the corner, and Easter and Spring is fast approaching, I thought I’d do an updated Romantic and Rustic Wedding mood board and invitation blogpost.

So, in a very rough attempt of a moodboard, I’ve collected a few photos of some of my favourite ‘Romantic and Rustic’ wedding-esque vibes, that not only give me something to aspire towards, but are also very unique.

So yes, as you can see, I’ve gone for a very dusty pink wedding palette. Now, my favourite colour scheme ever is light blue-and-white, but I feel for a romantic and spring wedding, this dusty pink just compliments the time of the year. Roses are my favourite flower, as I think they just add sophistication and beauty to everything they accompany, and having them attached to a veil would make for such a beautiful and unique wedding touch.

Now, as an English graduate and book nerd, I think having literary touches as table centerpieces and confetti reflect me as a person, and would be great conversation starters. Also, who doesn’t want to be doused with confetti made from the world’s greatest love stories?

And the addition of a blackboard, gorgeous shoes, and candlelight, my spring wedding board bursts with love, beauty, floral overtones and magic. I think a spring wedding needs to have something that ties in with nature, and by giving seeds as a wedding gift to guests, this also shows that your from your wedding day, life has the ability to be created and cultivated.

So, what would my wedding invitation look like? Now, I was searching and searching, and found this website called PaperlessPost, so through this, I got to peruse through the thousands of designs. PaperlessPost offer both online and physical copies of invitations,  and you can either pick from the beautiful designs, or customise your own and add photos, to make the invitation entirely unique and personal. And it’s not just limited to weddings, but a whole smorgasbord of invitation-worthy events.

And the design I chose was the line created by renowned fashion designer, Oscar de la Renta, and it’s the Rose Floral Ikat in the Navy colour. 421f85398a8794d54b5db502a21aa49c6ae0c2f5_1457444862

Now, I know it doesn’t necessarily follow with the pale and dusty pastels of my wedding palette, but I found this to be the most classically stunning and elegant colour scheme. I love how PaperlessPost show the invitation off with reference to literary characters, and with wedding invitations and envelopes all showing this beautiful design, I just fell in love.

So here it is, my romantic and rustic wedding ideas blogpost. For my full moodboard and inspirations, I will link my Pinterest below, so you can see more if you so wish.

But please tell me, what’s your dream wedding? And would you stick with pastels, or go for something different?

My Romantic and Rustic Spring Wedding Inspirational Pieces.